No Delight in Going Through the Motions

I’m chewing on a few verses in Amos this morning.

Don’t recall having ever put fingers-to-keyboard concerning something in Amos’s prophecy before so I went and did a search in my e-journal. One entry back in December 2010. So it’s been awhile.

Maybe these verses in Amos have caught my attention because, as I’m also reading in Revelation, the church of Laodecia, the church of the lukewarm, is still fresh in my mind. Or, maybe it’s just because the Spirit is having me pause over this divine reality this morning: there’s no delight in going through the motions.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

(Amos 5:21-24 ESV)

Aye yai yai!

Or should I say, I, I, I!

That’s what caught my attention–what I learn about God. The God who says, “I hate, I despise. I take no delight. I will not accept. I will not look upon. I will not listen.” And what is the object of God’s seemingly visceral negative reaction? His people going through the motions.

I think I sometimes forget that during the latter days of Israel and Judah, though many, many had turned their backs on their God, they hadn’t stopped “going to church.” They still celebrated the feasts. They still assembled together on the Sabbath. They still “obeyed” with burnt offerings, grain offerings, and–crazy to even say it–were still bringing peace offerings. All the while they continued to strike up the band and sing songs of worship. Somehow thinking that going through the motions was going to move God.

Well, in a sense it did. God was moved to indignation. Even using the “h” word (hate). By day they were in bed with the world, lusting after its idols, pursuing its pleasures, marching to the beat of its drummer. And then, somehow thinking they could “come home” each night (or once a week . . . or a few times a month) as long as they continued, to some degree, walking through God’s given rituals. Ah . . . no!

And I shudder at the thought that sin can so deceive, that idols can so desensitize, that somehow God’s people think that, if they but go through the motions, God is somehow placated concerning their unfaithfulness. That we mistake His patience for His approval. We presume on His grace and see it as the go ahead to keep doing what we’re doing. When in fact, He takes no delight . . . He will not accept . . . He will not look upon . . . He will not listen . . . to us simply going through the motions.

Thinkin’ that’s why Jesus said to Laodicea, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16).

Instead, God wants religion that’s real. Justice rolling down like waters. Righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Righteousness, not of our own making or produced by our own efforts, but righteousness that comes from real abiding in His finished work and an authentic response of obedience to His call to follow Him. Feasts held, assemblies assembled, offerings offered, and songs sung with hearts devoted and attuned to the God in our midst.

And that, by His grace. And for His glory.

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You Will See Me

The next few hours would be brutal. Tomorrow they would witness what none of them could have imagined witnessing. The next couple of days would be filled with confusion, despondency, and the deepest of sorrows. So, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus sought to encourage His disciples. On the eve of the crucifixion He sought to implant something in their minds, hearts, and souls that would sustain them. Something that would prime the pump of hope. He left them this promise, “You will see Me.”

“A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me. . . . Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. . . . So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”  ~ Jesus

(John 16:16, 20, 22 ESV)

His betrayal would be unavoidable. His death would be indisputable. His burial seemingly irreversible. But that He would rise from the dead, and that they would see Him again . . . well, that would be irrefutable. And that they would rejoice? Inevitable!

You WILL see Me. I WILL see you. Your sorrow WILL turn into joy. Your hearts WILL rejoice. And no one, NO ONE, will take your joy away.

A promise spoken to them. A promise preserved for us. You will see Me.

Jesus knew that’s what they needed to hear that night. And I’m thinking that, for many of us, He knows it’s what we need to hear today.

Needing to again put the realities of the here and now in the context of the promises of there and then. If even for just a few minutes, looking up from the struggles before us and remembering the faithfulness of the Sovereign over us. Not ignoring our sorrow, but also not forgetting His promise. You will see Me.

Never is a believer more alive then when he or she really believes that Jesus’ second advent could be soon . . . perhaps today! Never is the church–the beautiful bride of Christ–more energized than when she takes to heart that the Bridegroom’s coming is imminent. And never is the weary soul more renewed than when it pauses to consider that the time is approaching when faith will give way to sight and “You will see Me!”

O blessed word of God. O wonderful Spirit who leads us into all truth. O precious promises of Jesus.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
   but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5b ESV)

Because of grace. For His glory.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

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Better Than Butter

How Job longed for the good ol’ days. The days of prosperity. The days of health. The days when family surrounded him. The days when widely held respect went before him. The days, Job says, “when God watched over me” (29:2). Then, he was in his prime. God’s friendship was beyond dispute. In fact, Job says, those days were so good . . .

” . . . my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!”   (Job 29:6 ESV)

How he pined for those bygone days when everything was going his way (MSG). Days when the blessings just flowed. When his path was coated with the finest and thickest cream (NIV). When even the rocks around him were prone to pouring out rivers of oil.

Who wouldn’t, in their suffering, long for such days?

If we can’t yet relate to Job in this, we will one day. A time of trouble becoming a catalyst for longing again for days of ease. Pain, hardship, and anguish causing us to sing songs of yesterday when troubles seemed so far away (thanx Beatles). To wish we were back in Kansas (and you too, Dorothy).

But then I turned to my reading from John. The John who wrote from the island of Patmos. My “brother and partner in the tribulation” in exile “on account of the word of God” (Rev. 1:9). Better days behind him as well. Maybe not butter days, like Job, but you gotta think better than what he was experiencing on Patmos. And, while Job looked back, God in His grace gave John a glimpse of what was yet to come. And it was better than butter.

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here” . . . and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne. And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. . . . From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, . . . and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures . . . and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”

(Revelation 4:1-8 ESV)

Our best days on earth can’t compare to what it will be like when we see what John saw. We know our worst days on earth will be worth it all when we’re reminded of what awaits those who love Him on that day we transcend earth. That day when we behold the throne. That day when we’re in the presence of God. Our holy, holy, holy God. It’s gonna be better than butter.

The senses will be overloaded with sights and sounds we’ve never seen nor heard. And our attention will be drawn to the One who sits on the throne, and our focus to the Lamb in the midst. And we’ll know, like we’ve never known, that this is truly life and life to the full.

And we’ll sing the song of the redeemed. And we’ll worship the One who sent the Redeemer. And we will behold Him, the One who gave Himself to rescue our souls. The One who, through His Spirit, tethers our souls to His.

The One who was . . . there in the good times. The One who is . . . an ever present help in time of need in the tough times. The One who is to come . . . taking us, on that day, to be with Himself.

Better than butter.

Father, strengthen me in the present. Keep me from being consumed with the good ol’ days of the past. Set my heart, mind, and eye on things yet to come . . . and that, perhaps today!

By your grace. For your glory.

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They Forgot Me

Wrapping up Hosea this morning. I never cease to be amazed by this love story gone south. A man who, under God’s direction, takes “a wife of whoredom” know he will have “children of whoredom”. And this in order to picture the depths of the love of God toward His people who had committed “great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (1:2-3).

So a woman of ill-repute, justified so by her adulterous practice, is given a second chance by Hosea though he’s been told she won’t remain faithful. What’s more, she is given another second chance when, after returning to her flesh-driven ways and clientele, she is bought again out of the bondage of infidelity. Hosea told by the LORD to “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (3:1). Heavy sigh.

And throughout the remainder of the prophet’s writing is the indictment against faithless, whoring Israel.

But in this closing chapter I wonder if I haven’t come across what might be a root cause for such unfaithfulness in light of such undeserved love. Perhaps the lure of other lovers is founded in something quiet fundamental. That, after deliverance, they became dull. After being loved, they let something slip. After realizing the promise of a new land, they become complacent concerning the Promise Giver.

But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, and besides Me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot Me.

(Hosea 13:4-6 ESV)

Therefore they forgot Me. What chilling words.

A people who had been led out of bondage. A people who had been cared for in the desert. A people who had been brought into a land of promise. Most importantly, a people with God in their midst. And, when they became full, when the need was no longer perceived, they forgot their Deliverer. Grew cold concerning their Provider. Having become used to the pillar of cloud that overshadowed them, they looked past the shoulder God’s glory in their midst and wondered what else was out there. And they, like Hosea’s wife, returned to bondage. All because, “They forgot Me.”

Have forgotten the One who loved them to the uttermost, they started looking for love in all the wrong places. Taking for granted the faithful care of Him who sacrificially met all their needs, they slipped into unfaithfulness as they lusted after those who might satiate some of their wants.

They forgot Me. What an ominous warning for the people of God. But for this too, He has made provision.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

(1Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)

This weekend, many of us in many churches will be taking at least a few minutes to participate in a simple feast designed to keep us from forgetting. A feast instituted by the Savior to help us remember. Oh, that we might remember! Truly remember!

That we would draw near again to the cross and remember our great deliverance and the cost paid by our great Deliverer. That we might know afresh of His faithful, every present, provision. And that it might drive from us the seeds of complacency and crush within us the appetite for other lovers which can never satisfy.

Might it be said of His people, Oh how they remember Me!

By His grace. For His glory.

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The Call Not To Tolerate It

I’m at the midpoint of the seven letters written to the seven churches in Revelation, the letter written to the angel of the church at Thyatira. And, if anything is clear up to this point, it is that Jesus knows.

“I know your works,” says the One who walks among the churches to Ephesus (Rev. 2:2). “I know your tribulations,” says the First and Last to Smyrna (2:9). Says the One who has the two-edged sword to the church at Pergamum, “I know where you live and what it’s like” (2:13). And to Thyatira, ” I know your latter works exceed the first,” says the Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze (2:19).

Does Jesus know? Yes, He knows. Does Jesus care? You better believe He cares. So much so that, while He acknowledges their faithfulness, He also loves them too much not to call out their need. For three of the four churches so far, after commending them, He says this, “But I have this against you . . . ”

The One who searches mind and heart knows what’s up, all of it! And He who gives according to our works loves us too much to not call us out when our works are lacking or misdirected. It’s part of completing the work He has promised to complete in us (Php. 1:6). And, in the case of Thyatira, it’s not so much what they were doing, but what they weren’t doing that’s got me thinking this morning.

“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” ~ Jesus

(Revelation 2:19-20 ESV)

Don’t know who this lady, Jezebel, is. Don’t know if that was her actual name or if she was just being likened to King Ahab’s idol-worshiping wife who had corrupted Israel. But it would seem she was a lady who got some air-time in the church. Maybe from the pulpit. Maybe as a bible study leader. Maybe simply by being an influential member of the church who had a platform for voicing her teaching..

Whatever the platform, she claimed to be a prophetess. She had a word from God for the church family. She had a new teaching, some new and improved food, for the flock. And it was seducing precious saints to engaging in sexual immorality. It was leading some astray to get increasingly comfortable with idolatry. She was spreading what some called “the deep things of Satan” (2:24) and there were those who were being swallowed up in it.

And here’s what Jesus knew. He knew what they weren’t doing. The church at Thyatira wasn’t dealing with it. Instead, they were tolerating that woman Jezebel.

They let her alone. Didn’t try to restrain or rebuke her. They were allowing her to teach. Letting her say what she said the Lord wanted her to say. They played it low-key and looked the other way. And to this church, says Him who has eyes like fire, “I have this against you.”

A reminder that even today the enemy will plant Jezebels within the church, male and female, with some “new revelation” which, at it’s core, preaches compromise. That we are not immune from orthodox sounding voices to be sowing unorthodox seed.

And the church is not to put up with it. But to call it out for what it is, false teaching. To stand opposed to anything which compromises fidelity to the Lord and to His word. To deal with the leaven before it leavens the whole lump.

Might the Bride of Christ be faithful to her Bridegroom. Might she not allow anything in that would lead souls astray and towards rebellion. Would she heed the call to confront false teaching and expose phony prophets. The call not to tolerate it.

That she might “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Couple of Great Questions

I like to think that they were sincere. But, honestly, they were sincerely bad. They each came from their own place to be with Job in order to be his comforter. But instead of bringing solace, they only added to his suffering. Instead of bringing peace to Job’s soul, they thought it better to give him a piece of their mind.

And here’s the thing about these guys, some of their observations were right on. It was their application that, for the most part, kind of missed the target. And, though their answers were mostly out to lunch, they did ask some pretty good questions.

A couple of great questions caught my attention this morning. Though they were asked as rhetorical questions, Bildad thinking the answers were obvious, I find myself in awe afresh as I chew on the answers none of those guys could have imagined.

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “Dominion and fear are with God; He makes peace in His high heaven. Is there any number to His armies? Upon whom does His light not arise? How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in His eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!”

(Job 25:1-6 ESV)

“How can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone born of a woman be pure?” (NLT) They can’t. That, for Bildad & Co., was the obvious, no-brainer answer.

But I find myself, like a kid in a classroom waving his hand wildly so the teacher can see it, wanting to shout, “Ooh, Ooh! I know, I know! Ask me! Ask me!”

How can those born of woman, but maggots and worms (a tad dramatic I think) when compared to God’s holiness, be without spot before Him? How can any man or woman hope to plead righteousness before the awesome God who alone has eternal dominion over all things? I know! I know! Sunday School answers for 100, Alex. Who is Jesus!

The same God who makes peace in His high heaven has made provision for peace on sin-stained earth. And that, through Himself. By sending the Christ. His blessed Son, God even God, taking on flesh in order to make peace through the cross. Making redemption possible. Making release from sin attainable. Making regeneration–worms and maggots of earth becoming new creations as sons and daughters of heaven–available.

How then can a man be right before God? By being in Christ. Because “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor. 5:21).

How can an ordinary Joe, or ordinary Job for that fact, stand guiltless before a holy Judge? Through an eternal Mediator. One who not only advocates on their behalf but who, Himself, has paid the price in full for their transgression so that God no longer sees them in their sin, nor deals with them according to their iniquity. Pure before God because God has removed their transgression from them.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

(Psalm 103:11-12 ESV)

He who makes peace in heaven has brought peace to earth by laying on His Son “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

Because of a couple of great questions, what wondrous recollection. What soul-satisfying reflection.

And we’re only getting started. December isn’t even here, but the anticipation of celebrating God’s great answer to the Bildad’s unanswerable question has begun. Oh, that I might maintain that focus over the next days and weeks with all that’s going to compete for my attention and affections.

Lousy comforters. Poor application-makers. But great question-askers. A catalyst to reminding us of a great salvation and a great, great God!

Amen?

By His grace. For His glory.

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To Love Him Is To Know Him

To know me is to love me. I’m thinking most folks have at least heard the cliché. Guessing also that many of us have used it. Either as a plea, or as a pardon. A plea for others to spend the time to truly get to know us–a plea for meaningful, deep down relationship. A pardon when it’s said to excuse those little “eccentricities” that might be annoying at first, but, when you get to know me, you’ll find adorable.

However, when it comes to the connection between knowing and loving Jesus, something Jesus says this morning in John 14 turns that little cliché upside down . . . or at least backwards. If I’m picking up what Jesus is laying down, then . . .

. . .  to love Him is to know Him.

“Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

(John 14:21-23 ESV)

On the night Jesus was betrayed, “having loved His own . . . He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). In partaking of His last supper before the cross He wanted to eat with those who had followed Him. In His final hours before His departure, He wanted to serve those who had left family, jobs, and comforts of status quo to serve Him. During the time when many might have been content to be alone with their thoughts, He wanted to pour out to them His final words of encouragement. And so we have what’s been called the Upper Room discourse in John 13 to 17. And as part of those final words Jesus says, in effect, “To love Me is to know Me.”

When I’m gone, Jesus said, love Me. How? Keep my commandments. Keep My word. For in that, you will keep the faith. Your behaviors acting as testimony to your beliefs. Your obedience not a means of earning My favor, but as a response to the unmerited favor you have already experienced. Keeping My commandments, says Jesus, is My love language.

But here’s what grabs me this morning. To those who love Him, He will manifest Himself to them. He will show Himself. He will come into view with increasing clarity.

And how’s that? For both the Father and Son will come to them and make Their home with them. They will make Their abode with them. They will move in, settle down, and abide with them.

And how’s that? The Father and the Son take up residence in them through the Spirit in them.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”   ~ Jesus

(John 14:15-17 ESV)

Because He has first loved us–having loved us to the utmost–we love Him. We show that love as we submit our will to His and seek His enabling to keep His commandments. And when we love Him, He makes Himself known to us as He abide with us.

And this, through the Spirit He has asked the Father to give to us. The Spirit who dwells with us. The Spirit who dwells in us. The Spirit who brings Father and Son to make Their home with us. A Trinitarian encounter of the divine kind. So that to love Him, is to know Him. And to know Him is eternal life (Jn. 17:3).

Oh, how I can take for granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. How complacent I can become that He is in me. How clueless I can be to His 24/7 dynamic in my life. How thankful I am, though, that the Helper is here helping Me.

The Spirit of truth helping me to love the Savior through the illumination of truth. And then igniting within me a desire to respond to the truth with trust and obedience. And then, as I love Jesus, the Spirit is the One through whom Jesus makes Himself known to me in a deeper way. The One through Whom the Son knocks at the door of my heart. The One who prompts me to open that door. The One through Whom the Son, accompanied by the Father, comes in and sets up home.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

What grace! To Him be all the glory!

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